Since moving to France, I’ve developed quite an ardent appreciation for French desserts, both for the exquisitely refined pieces of art by pastry chefs such as Claire Heitzler of Lasserre as well as for the more mundane and quotidian desserts like chocolate mousse. Not too long ago, I discovered riz au lait, or rice pudding. Several of my old co-workers who occassionally grabbed lunch at the hospital café would often have it for dessert. I’m not sure which brand it was that they ate, but it came packed in a jar very much like this. When I saw that very jar sold in the dairy aisle at the market, it reminded me of my old co-workers and how much I miss seeing them (that is, those who didn’t my work life miserable) everyday. So, compelled by nostalgia and curiosity, I grabbed a couple of jars. I couldn’t wait to dig in and taste the creamy goodness.
Though far from being an exceptionally awe-inspiring dessert, it more than exceeded my expectations and I was ready to scarf down the second jar after licking the first one clean. It was 100% bonheur (happiness) as the label promised; however, I knew that this is something that could easily be made at home, given the sparse ingredients listed on the jar.
After reading through several recipes, I decided on a modified version of this one. She recommends using unpasteurized, raw whole milk from a farm, as that is supposed to give the best flavor. I imagine raw milk is not exactly easy to come by in the states, so I think regular, pasteurized milk will suffice. Rather than adding the rice to the milk after allowing the vanilla bean to steep for awhile, I decided to give the rice a stir with a dab of butter before adding in the milk and vanilla bean. I had also reduced the amount of sugar called for in the recipe to my own taste.
I couldn’t believe how insanely easy and addictive this recipe is. I also can’t believe that I’ve been in France for this long without having ever tasted riz au lait! This recipe is incredibly versatile so you can modify it however you like by topping it with shaved chocolate or even a fruit preserve.
Riz au lait à la vanille
1/2 to 1 tbspn butter // 1 liter of whole milk // 150 g of round uncooked rice
75 g sugar (or more to taste) // 1 vanilla bean
1. Heat the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the rice and stir until the rice is thoroughly coated with the butter.
2. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and add it to the saucepan along with the milk.
3. Once the mixture comes to a very soft boil, reduce the heat to low. Cover partially with a lid and make sure to stir the mixture often to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom.
4. Allow to cook for about 40+ minutes. Once the rice has reached the consistency that you like, add the sugar.
5. Pour into ramekins or whatever vessel you like and allow to cool. Once cool, refrigerate them for a couple of hours before serving. I actually prefer to eat it when its still slightly warm though.